OB-GYNs Say No Prescription Should Be Needed To Get The Pill | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

OB-GYNs Say No Prescription Should Be Needed To Get The Pill

The time has come for the pill to be available over-the-counter, the nation's leading group of obstetricians and gynecologists says.

Why? "There's a 50 percent unintended pregnancy rate in the U.S., which is extremely high for a resource-rich country," says Dr. James T. Breeden, president of the American Congress of Obstetrician and Gynecologists. Easier access to oral contraceptives could go a long way to bringing that number down, he tells Shots.

The argument for the switch was just published in an ACOG policy statement. But don't expect to see the pill next to acetaminophen or cough syrup on drugstore shelves anytime soon.

The Food and Drug Administration would have to agree that the benefits to women outweigh the risks from taking the pill without a health professional's guidance.

The feds have approved switches for some allergy pills, heartburn medicines and even allowed nonprescription sales of the emergency contraceptive Plan B to adults. But the FDA has rejected the switch of some common cholesterol drugs called statins to OTC sale.

The clearest path to nonprescription status the pill would be for a drugmaker to push the case with the agency. ACOG would support a move like that, Breeden says, but it's not the group's place to lead the commercial charge.

What are the risks? The biggest worry is blood clots. They're rare, but the risk rises for women who smoke or are over 35. Uncontrolled high blood pressure would also boost the risk for trouble. But, Breeden says, "It is much worse to have a women who is hypertensive be pregnant that to be on birth control pills."

It's also possible that women would skip some visits to their doctors.

Other over-the-counter medicines also carry risks, though. Aspirin can lead to serious bleeding problems, and overdoses of acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) are a leading cause of liver failure.

Breeden is confident women could adequately screen themselves before deciding to start oral contraceptives. They might even do a better job than doctors at that, he says.

"All in all, it would be a major benefit" for women to be able to buy the pill prescription free, he says.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

No Demons, No Angels: Attica Locke Aims For Black Characters Who Are Human

In her new novel, Pleasantville, and on TV's Empire, Locke does her best to avoid simple stories. "You do some good stuff and you do some bad stuff," she says. "... We exist in the middle."
NPR

When Danish Cows See Fresh Spring Pasture, They Jump For Joy

Thousands of spectators gather every April to see ecstatic cows return to fields on organic farms around Denmark. The organic industry says the event has helped fuel demand for organic foods.
NPR

Proposed Retirement Advice Rule Has Worrisome Loopholes, Experts Say

The Department of Labor has crafted a proposed rule to better protect Americans saving for retirement. But questions are already being raised about how effective the new rule will be.
NPR

Solar Power Makes Electricity More Accessible On Navajo Reservation

The panels, funded by government grants, are helping thousands of tribal residents take advantage of the everyday luxuries enjoyed by other Americans — like turning on lights or storing food.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.